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Wright Morris Biography

(1910–1998), My Uncle Dudley, The Man Who Was There, The Inhabitants

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Edgar Mittelholzer Biography to Mr Norris Changes Trains

American novelist, born in Central City, Nebraska, educated at Crane College, Chicago, and Pomona College, Claremont, California. Despite considerable praise from many influential critics and writers, Morris remains one of the most neglected of major American writers. He travelled extensively in Europe before returning to the USA in 1934 to begin his literary career; he also established a complementary career as a photographer. Morris's first published novel was My Uncle Dudley (1942), a charming, largely autobiographical work, showing stylistic affinities with Hemingway and peopled with characters reminiscent of those in Steinbeck's fiction; his second novel was The Man Who Was There (1946). A 15,000-mile tour of the USA in 19401 provided him with photographic material for The Inhabitants (1946), an earlier version of which was published by James Laughlin in New Directions in Prose and Poetry (1940); The Inhabitants was the first of a projected series of five volumes of ‘photo-text’ (complementary fiction and photography), published by Charles Scribner's Sons in New York, of which the only other volume to be published was The Home Place (1948) (The World in the Attic, intended for the series, was published in 1949 without photographs). Both texts bespeak Morris's imaginative preoccupation with the landscape, both natural and man-made, of the American West and, in particular, of his home state of Nebraska. Man and Boy (1951) marked a slight shift of direction, the novel having Eastern settings in suburban Philadelphia and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and later novels, notably Love among the Cannibals (1957) and What a Way To Go (1962), reveal a talent for irony and social satire absent from the earlier writings. Ceremony in Lone Tree (1960), however, with its Nebraskan setting, is more characteristic of Morris's style and vision, and it remains, arguably, his most impressive work of fiction. Other works include the novels Fire Sermon (1971) and A Life (1973); Collected Stories, 1948–1986 appeared in 1986. The Territory Ahead (1958) is a collection of essays on American literature; Structure and Artifacts: Photographs 1933–1954 and Morris (1981) are representative photographic portfolios, while God's Country and My People (1968) is an autobiographical essay with photographs. Wright Morris (1964) by David Madden and The Novels of Morris: A Critical Interpretation (1978) by G. B. Crump are critical studies.

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